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Why You Need a (Blogging) Business Model

Posted By Darren Rowse 10th of May 2009 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Today Shaun Connell from Learn Financial Planning shares some thoughts about blog business models.

After managing a website or blog for a significant period of time, it becomes extremely easy to assume that because we do our business online, that we aren’t engaging in ‘real’ business, and all of the ‘real’ principles of business don’t apply. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

You need a (blogging) business model.

This post explains why you need to actually write out your own business plan – even if you’re ‘just’ running an online business. Without a specific business model, you’re chances of success are greatly diminished.

But first, let’s dig a little deeper before we talk specifically about blogging. Let’s look at the fundamentals of science, business, economics and the Universe itself.

How the Universe Works

The most important concept I’ve ever read about was explained in a book by Richard Maybury, a popular author, investor and economist. In his book, Maybury explained that the world operates in terms of what he called ‘models’, or systems.

There’s the solar system, the system of natural selection, the system of economics, the systems of business – everything operates in terms of a system. Everything from door knobs, to atoms, to TVs, to Wal Mart – there’s a system to everything.

Maybury explained if you want to accomplish a certain goal, the most important thing you can learn is how the systems operate, and implement them for yourself. Timothy Ferris has taken this to the extreme, deconstructing everything from learning a language, to wrestling, to building a business based on logical system.

I know, I know — the word “system” is often used by scammers to lend credibility to a get-rich-quick program. Feel free to think the word “plan” instead of “system” and we’ll both be on the same page.

In the same way the ‘system’ of a motor has fuel, a framework, pistons, etc – a typical business model has funding, a location, employees, etc. You’re blogging model will need content, marketing and monetization — a system.

Everything operates systematically. Everything.

Why Bloggers Often Fail

Let’s face it: most bloggers fail to earn a full-time income. Some spend literally years trying to make it. The statistics are “against” blogging success.

But it’s not because of a lack of information. Yaro, Darren, Brian and dozens of other successful people have poured their guts into free content and relatively inexpensive courses, explaining the ins-and-outs of building a successful blog.

Success certainly isn’t distant because of a lack of data.

But raw data is useless unless we know what to do with it.

A business is a business, whether it’s on a blog or in a ‘brick and mortar’ building. Blogging without a general business plan is akin to trying to start a ‘regular’ business without a plan. Success is possible, but much, much less likely.

How to Get a Blogging Model

A business “model” is basically just a plan — a roadmap that details every step and action you take in your business that leads to the end result of a profit.

There are dozens of popular ways to turn a profit online, with models based on affiliate marketing, pay-per-click advertising, search-engine marketing, social media marketing, etc. Most blogs mix-and-match the various tactics into a model they are most comfortable with.

As you write your own model, make sure to be as specific as possible without being restrictive. Here are some of the concepts your model will need to consider:

  • Content Model. Who will write your content? How often will your content be published? What’s the purpose of every article? Will you do straight-up blogging, or a little bit of traditional webmastering? Will you be doing “open-ended blogging” without an “end date” for your content to be roughly finished? Will you accept guest posts?
  • Marketing Model. Almost all traffic is good, but what kind will you focus on? Will you build links? Will you pay for ads? Will you write guest posts? Will you spend a majority of your time doing keyword research? Will you focus on social media?
  • Monetization Model. Some “gurus” claim the need to focus on content now, and think about monetization later. That’s risky, and for many small niches it’s a little naive. Will you use AdSense? What affiliate programs will you focus on? How will you get visitors from your “regular posts” to your money-making posts? Will you focus your web design on usability?

These questions are just the beginning. Most of us have a general idea of what the answers to these questions are, but putting them into concrete form helps “seal the deal” and gives us tangible steps to take in order to achieve our goals to make money.

Last Thoughts

Being a beginner blogger without a blogging plan is like learning to cook without using any recipes – success is possible, but not probable.

I’m not saying you should restrict yourself into a little box — that’d be counter-productive for obvious reasons. A good blogging model doesn’t restrict you, but allows you to focus on the important steps you need to take to achieve your blogging goals. That’s it.

This isn’t revolutionary material, and has been explained in literature from the Bible, to business textbooks, to self-growth books like “Think and Grow Rich.”

So what’s your blogging model? Have you ever spent a few moments to write down what your goals are? What your marketing strategy is? Any tips on writing a blogging plan that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.

This post was written by Shaun Connell, the webmaster of Learn Financial Planning, where he writes about everything from picking a savings account to learning how to make money online.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Great insights Shaun.

    When I started blogging, I was doing it for fun and for the sake of learning how to blog.

    I didn’t have a plan in the begining but was somehow surprised with the little money that I could make from niche blogging using blogger blogspot in the begining.

    Though I’m using wordpress now, I still have a lot of blogs at blogspot which I use for link building by making the blogs “do follow”.

    The only system I use is to read what the top bloggers like Darren, Yaro etc blog about.

    I have ZERO knowledge on blogging when I started and though I’m more knowlegable now, I’m still learning new things every other day.

    My tips – Enjoy blogging and start learning from other bloggers if you are a newbie…:)

  2. Hi,

    Can’t agree more – plunging into blogging without a business plan can not lead to success. You can not start blogging and think about a plan “later”!

    That doesn’t mean blogging can’t be fun – it definitely has to be. But without a plan, blogging can’t be a sustainable activity.

    I personally prefer earning from selling one’s own services instead of selling someone else’s ADs.

    I specialize in Search Engine Optimization, and I sell SEO analysis report and a user experience analysis report on my blog.

    And I regularly write about various aspects of SEO for beginners. This helps in:

    – Attracting search engine traffic to my blog
    – Attracting RSS subscribers
    – Establishing my authority as a knowledgeable person as far as SEO is concerned

    Thus, when my readers convert into buyers, the blog pays for itself!

  3. Hiya

    Thanks for your insights and practical reminders. I started blogging this year and have found many tips on writing useful posts and building blogs. I’m enjoying learning this craft and there’s much to discover.

    All your information is relevant to me and I’ve already built in initial steps for a more rewarding blog.
    I’ve also written my goals, content directions, articles, places to attract traffic, ideas on products, relevant affiliate products, blog networks and even changing my blogging plans if necessary.

    Marketing, managing content, flexibility and enjoyment seem general keys at my early stage. Alongside healthy doses of pragmatism, of course.

    Thanks again

  4. That is a wonderful gyan w.r.t. blogging as a business. Even in my business, my priorities has been to setup systems and step out of the system and watch from above as the whole process takes place.

    This comment feature is a system too! :)

  5. This was a good post and much like Roseli Bakar, I did not take blogging seriously when I first began. I have been able to make changes in the way that I blog with the help of posts here at Problogger and other blogs that provide useful information on blogging as a business. After participating in the 31 Day Blog Challenge, I have come away with useful tips and information that will help me develop a solid business model and grow my blog to a better level.

  6. Awesome information you’ve got here. I know personally that when I dive into projects without planning, they go nowhere. I think many people should spend some real time thinking up plans for growing and developing their blogs.

  7. I agree, I hardly earn money from blogging. But i have been trying hard to make sure that I improve my blog stats which will help me to earn more money

  8. “Some “gurus” claim the need to focus on content now, and think about monetization later. That’s risky, and for many small niches it’s a little naive.”

    Could you elaborate? I tend to think a brand new blog would need a decent amount of content to build credibility before the blogger could ask for people to pull out their wallets. I’m in a particular niche where AdSense isn’t very effective, so producing a product would be my primary business focus.

    However, I feel that I need to build a loyal readership on free information, selling them on ME before I begin trying to sell them my product. Thoughts?

  9. Yeah . . . .this in other words would be termed as the goal setting. and, whatever that you want to achieve, you need to set goals, focus and deliver.
    Why should blogging as a task be deprived of goal setting and having a business plan(model)?

  10. Excellent article! I am just starting out a new blog based on the failings of previous blogs and now think I narrowed it down to something that actually will work for me and my schedule. I failed on the previous blogs because I didn’t plan, I got excited about making money and didn’t think about much else…bad idea. This time I am taking Darren’s advice and am going to be well prepared. Thanks.

  11. Failing to plan is planning to fail! I live by this quote. You will spend time planning your blog if you are serious about building a long lasting, influential blog.

  12. It is true that all businesses need a business plan. But seldom is its importance realized in an online business. The main reason why it is so, is the fact that there is no binding or, commitment in an online business. So people tend to take things lightly and that is why most of the people fail.
    Also the fact that people doing online business often are not able to decide as to what would be the right business model for their business adds up to the reason for them ignoring it altogether.

  13. Hi Darren,
    My favorite word in business is “systems,”

    without building systems within your business and sticking with them you are bound to end up chasing your tail.

    In my offline business, I have had to systematize every aspect of how I do things in order to free up my time to educate myself on the ins and outs of blogging wordpress and SEO.

    Great article and I think the importance of planning and mapping out not only your site but business model before diving headlong into getting online cant be emphasized enough.

  14. Any serious blogger needs to treat it like a business. That’s what will keep them on track. If you dont have a model in place and thus nothing much to measure you will quickly get bored of it.

    Treating your blog like a business is a sure fire way to make it more successful then most of the blogs out there.

  15. My Bloging plan involves various tasks. I set myself small objectives. When ever I reach to those milestones, I celebrate it with my wife. Also, it gets me going as it is very easy to get fed up and stop everything.

    My long term goal is make lots of money with my blog :) However, I still have loads to do before reaching that main objective.

    My plan includes daily tasks. Each day, I spend 4 hours. However, that doesn’t necessarily means I am writing blog post during that 4 hour. I do blog commenting, article writing, forums, etc. I dedicate certain amont of time for each task and I am quite strickt with that.

  16. These are the areas that need to be addressed – the plan or whatever.

    The doing I think comes down to trying stuff, seeing what works and what doesn’t, keeping what works, then trying some more stuff.

  17. Thanks for the thoughtful comments guys!

    Hey Joe,

    I agree with your point about content first, monetization second — my point was about planning. In other words, you should have your monetization plan ready to go before you write content.

    So I’ll certainly agree you shouldn’t be peddling affiliate programs for some time until you have some content and respect under your belt — but you should always have a general plan for -how- you’ll monetize later.

    Does this make sense?


  18. This is definitely a must. There are many gurus out there telling you how to make money but you a plan. A great to place to learn how to build an online business is Internet Business Mastery. They offer a lot of great free tips on there podcast.

  19. Yet another excellent post. Having a plan gives me a sense of purpose and something to aim for. If I’m blogging aimlessly it’s not nearly as fulfilling to me. The other part of having a plan, though, is the flexibility to change it as I learn more (sometimes becoming more realistic) and realize that I need to go in a different direction. It’s dangerous to have a plan that is too set in stone.

    Thanks for making me think again about where I’m going and what I want to accomplish.

  20. lots of good points in this article. my blog sort of flopped around in and out of use and readership for almost two years before i applied what i’d learned about marketing through my day job to it.

  21. Well yesterday night i read this article in my blackberry and now I want to say something about it.
    I am totally agree with your opinion. A blog is a company. When you run a business you must think of how to make more money and how to attract more readers. This is the truth.

  22. lots of good points in this article. my blog sort of flopped around in and out of use and readership for almost two years before i applied what i’d learned about marketing through my day job to it.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  23. Such a best tutorial article.
    I have planed to promote my blog using Social media and Some tricky & funny methods like Distribute T-Shirts in blog camps,Seminars and blog meets off line.
    But also focusing on really worthwhile content like a free tutorials on some selected topics.
    Really got a new plan & idea from Problogger.net.
    Thanks Darren .

  24. Great Article.

    The sentence “The statistics are “against” blogging success” is an unpleasant truth.

  25. Solid ideas and a good reality check. I’ve been working on my blog for at least three years but did not see it as a real money making possibility until recently. Clear goals have helped me. Still trying to work through some issues and am taking Yaro Starak’s online course. Blogging is work that requires a sustained commitment but the rewards are worth it.

  26. Yeah. You can’t guess what will happen in the next day if you don’t have any plan.

  27. Hey Darren! I just wanted to let you know that last month was the first month of my blogging career where I actually made more money than I spend. What I mean is, I made more money from my blog than what I spent on my house, food, transportation, entertainment, etc. And I actually did it while traveling around Europe on my bicycle – which just goes to show that this blogging things really can be done from anywhere.

    Anyway, I just wanted to tell you about my small bit of success this past month. I’m pretty excited about it. Now I just gotta do the same this month!

    Thank you for all your tips, advice, and encouragement. Keep up the good work!

  28. Shaun, what good guidelines for someone like myself. I am not new to blogging, but I am very new to “blogging as a business.” I learn something new each day, mainly from the good tips of those who “are in the know.”

    So…thank you!

  29. I’m trying to go at it from all three angles:
    Content: I’m the only vendor for my product. There is virtually no other sales training program for my specific niche market.

    Marketing: I get a lot of traffic from my non-target market due to the novelty of the content. I’ve developed my reader base via myspace, since that is the experience level of most of my target demographic.

    Monetization: currently setting up affiliates, adsense, learning as I go!

  30. I’ve had an offline business before and now an online (still very much developing) business. With my offline business I had a 100+ page business plan that I very rarely looked at. It was updated once a year. Whilst it did help in giving us direction and focus, because of its size, it was rarely referred to. Then I read a book called “Re-imagine” by Tom Peters.

    This book basically outlines how businesses in the modern era need to operate. One of the ideas presented was to have a business plan but keep it to a couple of pages rather than a massive document. I switched to that format and found it far more beneficial and user friendly.

    I’m very much an advocate of the principles in Re-imagine, including the 2 page business plan idea. In this time poor world we live in, I fine a 2 page business plan that can be easily amended and referred to makes far more sense than a 100+ page document that sits on a shelf.

  31. I totally agree with this angle. To me, if you’re intending on making some or any sort of income from a blog, you should approach it like a business and at the very least, have a plan.

    I would suggest that for each model you presented, content, marketing, and monetization a quick 1 page (or less) summary of the key points on a sheet of paper is sufficient for most beginners.

    Expanding on the plan is something that will happen as you take action and taking action at the start is the most important thing. Be smart and be prepared!

  32. I agree. However, I think there is something small I think worth adding – when defining and designing a plan for blogging, it’s better to define the high end goals, rather than to get to details. I mean workout the neaty gritty details later. The business module needs to have “systems” in place to adapt to certain circumstances.

  33. blogging model? It something new to me. But we need to have plan and strategy for long term and short term. Hope i can follow my plan well.

  34. This is a great idea. Another one to help me out with my new Freebies Blog. Thanks.

  35. Thanks for the valuable insight Shaun!

    It is important to have a blogging model. Starting a blog without a direction or a goal of where you want to be is just like starting anything wihout an end game in mind. It’s just pointless.

    With the odds against any blogger making it big, it makes it more important to have an end game plan up front.

  36. Interesting post because I myself had never considered a business plan, but you are right, I can see how it would be essential. I have done a lot of other strategizing and marketing research and development but never sat down to actually conceptualize a business plan on paper.

    Great morsel for me to chew on for the night, I think I will see if I can’t get a plan drafted this weekend and see where to go from there.

  37. I am just starting a blog and I hope to move toward monetizing it. I am curious about why it is naive to build content before advertising. Is it naive to not *think* about advertising? Or is it naive not to immediately advertise? My fear is that without solid content and a history of information, people coming to the site won’t have a reason to come back or delve further into the site.

    Would love comments.

  38. This was exactly what i thought.Many fail in this aspect.It took a long time for me to get this fact too.

  39. I’m on the fence about business plans. I had a 10-page plan, complete with call-outs and pie charts, but I never finished it. I finally “scrapped” it (tho of course it’s still archived), and wrote a 2-page action list (based on this post). We’ll see if it helps…

  40. “The statistics are “against” blogging success” – I would argue that this depends on what your idea of success it for your blog. I do blog, but I’m not even trying to make money through it. I blog to stimulate my mind through writing, demonstrate my professional development by sharing what I’ve learned, and to increase my “google” footprint. There are other reasons as well, but those are the main ones. Sure, I’d like to be read by thousands, but if it what I post helps 1 person a week or gives a potential employer a positive result when they “google” me then I’d consider my blog a success.

  41. This was an intriguing post, but I wish it had gone further. I’d like to get a walk-thru of how you find a system and identify what’s been done to make that system successful. Without knowing details how can you determine if it’s a system worth emulating?

  42. How do you grow traffic? How do you go from 60 page hits per day to 600 to 6,000?

  43. Bloging helps business of all types it brings traffic and sales. After reading this I’m still not sure how to make bloging business model.

    web / mktg

  44. Great Ideas but Ideas need implementation and Implementation is hard…..

  45. Joan Dempsey says: 06/02/2009 at 10:58 pm

    I came across a template for determining a business model that has worked for folks I know – it’s simple once you read through the concepts and it’s a great tool to help you think through each area of your blogging business. And it’s given away free under a Creative Commons license.

    Here’s the link:

  46. Of the 3 model you described (Content, Marketing and Monetization), I’ve recently finalized my Content Model. The blog focuses on Bengali Cuisine [for the uninitiated, Bengal is a region in South Asia, comprising a state in India and whole of Bangladesh]. There would be 2 kinds of posts – 1. Recipes – by my partner (Sudeshna) would write these 2. Webmaster related (keywords, traffic, model, visitors, plugin, theme, how to build a food blog etc) – me.

    Excellent tips to get someone like me thinking.

  47. Hi,

    I like your advice and I find it necessary to have a plan.

    However, when you’re just getting started, you don’t know what works for you until you experiment with it.
    “Is Adsense more productive for me? ”
    “Which affiliate network brings me more commissions? ”
    “Do paid ads work better than stumble upon or digg?”

    These are all questions you cannot answer right from the beginning, so my opinion is the blogging business model should be created after you have experimented a little with your blog.

    Best regards,

  48. Excellent article, time to get really thinking about how I’m planning to take my online blogging business forward.

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